HIS 365G • Unbelief in America
||miller, g. Howard|
This new lecture course will investigate the development of a tradition of unbelief--rationalism, skepticism, agnosticism, and atheism--in American culture. We will begin by investigating the emergence of skepticism and, then, atheism in early modern Europe. We will then look at the transfer of that culture of unbelief to the British colonies in America, often in the form of occult traditions. That will be followed by an investigation of the Enlightenment in America and the emergence of the first defenses of skeptical, rational belief and the articulation of the first statements of atheism in America, especially among the Founders of the American Republic. We will then follow the development of that tradition in more detail through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, paying special attention to the careers of Robert Greene Ingersoll, the most important proponent of unbelief in late nineteenth century America; H.L. Mencken, the sharp-tongued journalist of the 1920s and 1930s; and, finally, Austin's own Madalyn Murray O'Hair.
The course grade will be determined by two one hour examinations that will each count 25% of the course grade and by a comprehensive final examination that will count for the remaining half of that grade.
Reading will be selected from among Martin Marty, The Infidel; Susan Jacoby, Free Thinkers; James Turner, Without God, Without Creed; G. Adolf Koch, Republican Religion; Page, ed., What Has God Got to Do With It: Robert Ingersoll on the Separation of Church and State; and Jacques Berlinerblau, The Secular Bible: Why Nonbelievers Must Take Religious Seriously.